Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson has announced the completion of an innovative bioenergy project that helps manage animal waste while at the same time producing energy and agriculture products.

Bronson joined a host of public officials and industry representatives at the demonstration of a bio-energy plant owned by Sigarca, Inc., and located at the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion in Marion County. The facility processes horse manure into renewable energy, organic soil and soil tonic (bio-fertilizers) and gives Florida's substantial equine industry an environmentally superior method of disposing of animal waste.

"Florida has more than half a million horses, and waste disposal is an increasingly difficult and costly endeavor," Bronson said. "In addition to providing a safe and effective waste disposal method, this technology can also move Florida further ahead in efforts to produce clean, renewable energy."

The facility produces enough electricity to meet its needs and provide excess energy to the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion. The organic soil and bio-fertilizers produced will be bagged and marketed to local nurseries and landscaping companies.

The patented, dry-fermentation process that is the core technology of the project was developed by Jose Sifontes, who led a team of experts from the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Marion County Extension Office, Kenaf USA, Sifontech, LLC, and Equine Waste Management, LLC. The facility does not product runoff, noise or noxious odors.

The demonstration project will last for one year and studies will be conducted to evaluate the plant's performance and its ability to operate on a larger, commercial scale. It's hoped the outcome will lead to the creation of a full-scale bio-energy plant using the same technology but with a greater output.

This facility is the first completed project that received funds from Bronson's "Farm to Fuel" grant program. Sigarca, Inc., was awarded $500,000 and the company and its partners invested an additional $539,000 to develop the facility.

Bronson created the Farm to Fuel Initiative in 2006 to ensure Florida can be a leader in the production of renewable energy from Florida grown crops, agricultural wastes and residues, and other biomass and to enhance the value of agriculture products and expand agribusiness in the state.